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January 17, 2020
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Accused murderer makes first court appearance

SANTA CRUZ — The man who allegedly stabbed his brother to death in their home in the outskirts of Watsonville Friday morning made his first court appearance Tuesday, where he delayed making a plea.

Joseph Keeler, 28, is facing murder charges, and special allegations that he used a weapon during the attack.

He is accused of stabbing his brother, 26-year-old Christopher Keeler, multiple times in the back of his legs, according to Santa Cruz County Assistant District Attorney Jason Gill.

He died from hemorrhagic shock after losing a large amount of blood from a wound in the back of his knee, according to Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Ashley Keehn.

Gill did not offer a motive for the attack, saying the facts will come out in future court hearings.

Keeler told superior Court Judge Paul Burdick that he was not employed at the time of his arrest, and that his parents supported him financially. He returns to court on Jan. 23, where he will likely enter a plea. 

Gill said that Keeler has a history of using knives, but declined to elaborate. 

“We do have public safety concerns,” he said. 

Burdick denied Gill’s request to hold Keeler without bail, but raised his bail by $20,000 to $770,000 to reflect the special allegation. 

Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a home on the 1400 block of Green Valley Road at 2 a.m. for a report of a disturbance. Christopher Keeler was flown to an out of county trauma center, where he later died.

The incident marked the first homicide of the year in Santa Cruz County.